JET Program Coordinator, Consulate-General of Japan
UW Majors: Japanese and Journalism
1. Tell us a bit about your job (e.g. what kinds of things you’re working on, what types of problems you solve day to day, etc.)?
Currently, I work as the JET Program Coordinator and the Educational Affairs Specialist for the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle since 2017. For those familiar with international relations, it would be like working for the Department of State for the U.S. My work involves me in a variety of tasks, but my main focus is on our international exchange programs - JET Program and MEXT Scholarships. JET Program, or the Japan Exchange & Teaching Program, is an opportunity for Americans with a BA degree to live and work in Japan, either as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) or as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR). The process involves recruitment, application screening, interviews, and pre-departure preparations. We usually send around 50-80 individuals every year via Seattle, with about 1,000 nationwide.
Many who seek the JET Program role will consider it as a stepping stone in their career, but as a JET Program alum, I find myself with the responsibility of making sure it is understood about the possible impact each participant could have on their students, co-workers, and the community they will adopt for the next 1-5 years. It is not just a one-way street of teaching about English, American culture, or their personal heritage - it is a chance for them to experience grassroots international exchange or citizen diplomacy. It is a sincere hope that by exploring the world and creating lifelong friendships with others that some semblance of progress and peace will occur.
2. How do you think your humanities education has influenced/advanced your career path?
My career has involved the importance of community. Humanities is the study of basically us - how culture, traditions, language, and society interact with the intricate fabric of history. Originally, I thought that I would go into a career involving writing, reporting, or translation; however, I have found greater joy in being a part of a larger mission in a community.
One of my first courses I took as an undergraduate at UW was an Asian American Studies course. Through hearing and reading stories of the struggles and triumphs, it helped me understand and appreciate the efforts in the Japanese and Japanese American community in Seattle. I learned about my fellow classmates - a majority of whom were Asian Americans - and what they overcame to study at the university. I could understand more about my friends. It helped me advance my empathy skills and it is something that I still reflect on to this day - more than 10 years later. While the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle's main mission is to assist Japanese nationals living in the U.S., as a member of local staff, we make sure to not forget about conveying the importance of the Japanese American community when planning for events and organizing programs. Many of our Japanese diplomats do not know much about Japanese American history when they first arrive for their post and are always amazed to see the customs and language thrive in its own way in the region as well as the community's resilience from systemic racism and hardship.
I enjoy working in public service. There are days where it feels thankless, but I know that I have left a positive impact on my JET and MEXT participants as well as on the communities I work with. My humanities education at the UW taught me empathy and to look deeper into an issue. So many of why things are the way they are happened before we were born or before we lived in an area - and my studies helped me navigate these unknowns and to seek for more information when things do not make sense. It has helped guide me when I hit a roadblock. For this past year with the pandemic and the border to Japan closed several times, it has made international relations a complicated process with ambiguity and frustration; however, I know that through the hard work of public servants, community groups, and the everyday citizen, we will overcome it because humans need connection and community.